Saturday, July 28, 2007
Two New Examples of Groundbreaking Social Research
Study: Iraqis May Experience Sadness When Friends, Relatives DieNext, a study of college student behavior:
CHAPEL HILL, NC—A field study released Monday by the University of North Carolina School of Public Health suggests that Iraqi citizens experience sadness and a sense of loss when relatives, spouses, and even friends perish.
Said [study director Jonathan] Pryztal: “When trying to understand the psychology of the Iraqi citizenry after four years of war, think of a small American town roiled by the death of a well-known high school football player.”
According to Pryztal, the intensity of the grief does not diminish if the mourner experiences multiple bereavements over time. “If a woman has already lost one child, the subsequent killings of other children will evoke similar responses,” he said. “In the majority of cases we studied, it appeared as though those who lost multiple kids never actually got used to it.”
Mizzou Study Shows That Possessing a Fake ID Results in More Drinking by Underage College StudentsOne of these accounts comes from an official university website, and the other comes from The Onion.
COLUMBIA, Mo. - For college students under the age of 21, possessing a fake ID is a tell-tale sign of underage drinking.
With the upcoming collegiate school year approaching, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have completed a study examining fake ID ownership and heavy alcohol consumption by freshman and sophomore students. The team of psychologists discovered an increasing number of students obtained fake IDs during their first two years of college and that ownership resulted in more drinking during that period of time. Over the course of four semesters, fake ID ownership increased from 12.5 percent to 32.2 percent among students younger than the legal drinking age.
The study also revealed that students belonging to fraternities or sororities were more likely to own a fake ID.
“The biggest finding is that having a fake ID is a risk factor for additional drinking - drinking that might not otherwise be occurring,” said Kenneth J. Sher, professor of clinical psychology in the College of Arts and Science’s Department of Psychological Sciences. “The other piece is how ubiquitous it is - how many underage drinkers have a fake ID. Basically, being a heavy drinker predicts the likelihood that someone will obtain a fake ID, and having a fake ID predicts that someone will be a heavy drinker.”
Quick, before clicking through -- which one is which?
Friday, July 27, 2007
Michael T. Eckhart: Environmentalist Threatens Global Warming Skeptic
Michael T. Eckhart is president of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). As such, he ought to be a fairly responsible person. When when faced with a highly reputable scientist who disagreed with him about “global warming,” he turned into a thug.
He sent a threatening e-mail to Marlo Lewis. Lewis is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who wrote an article for the American Spectator skeptical of some bills now before Congress.
“Marlo, you are so full of crap. . . . You have been proven wrong. The entire world has proven you wrong. You are the last guy on Earth to get it.When one side in a debate is reduced to intimidation, it becomes pretty obvious that they doubt their ability to win in the marketplace of ideas.
“Take this warning from me, Marlo. It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar. If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on.”
We think it is relevant here that liberals have a strong tendency to be secular, and that scientists among liberals have an even stronger tendency to reject religion.
But if one decides that there is no God, the craving for personal righteousness does not go away.
The desire to see ideas that are Good and True expressed, and conversely to silence what one considers evil heresy does not disappear.
Thus it is no surprise to find, among environmentalists, the sort of fanaticism that has marked religion at its worst. Admittedly, a lot of environmentalists (like most religious believers) are benign enough people. But a hard core of the ultra-orthodox exists, and is willing to war against the heretics.
Marlo Lewis, welcome to the new Inquisition.
PBS Ombudsman Admits to Bias on Moyers Show
This is a subject that gets almost no national media attention, especially from commercial broadcast television. Many will argue, of course, that it doesn’t get attention because it isn’t going to happen; that it has virtually no political traction, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made clear. That is the conventional wisdom and it is probably true.We have posted before on the pervasive bias at PBS.
But I would argue that it is still a newsworthy topic. So, as a viewer, I’m grateful that it is being addressed. Impeachment is a process spelled out in the Constitution for citizens to use and, although rarely used, the program reminds us that it was used against President Clinton by the House of Representatives just a decade ago for essentially lying to a federal grand jury about his sex life.
On the other hand, there was almost a complete absence of balance, as I watched it, in the way this program presented the case for impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
The program featured two well-informed and articulate guests — Bruce Fein, a Constitutional scholar who wrote one of the articles of impeachment against Clinton, and John Nichols, the Washington correspondent for “The Nation,” a liberal magazine, and the author of a recent book on impeachment. The problem is that both guests favored moving ahead with impeachment proceedings.
It’s nice that Getler will admit to a bias here.
But what of his point that it was “a newsworthy topic” and that it was good that it was “being addressed?”
In an academic setting, it’s dandy to consider proposals that could not possibly pass the U.S. Congress. It’s dandy to consider proposals that a vast majority of Americans oppose.
So why not on PBS?
The problem comes when far-out proposals that tickle the fancy of the left are considered, but far out right-wing proposals are not.
If Moyers is going to push a policy so extreme that even Nancy Pelosi won’t touch it, why not the hoary right-wing idea that we should get out of the United Nations?
Considering only pet leftist policies, and not pet rightist policies, is simply an attempt to move the discussion to the left.
So when is Moyers going to take up the notion that the U.S. should leave the U.N.?
And have a “liberal” and a conservative, both of whom favor the idea, discuss it?
Academics: Unlikely Bush Supporters on Iraq
WASHINGTON -- Experts on Iraq, who were mostly cold-shouldered by the Bush administration in planning the war, tend not to be among the president’s greatest admirers.Democrats are unlikely to heed such warnings. They are simply too invested in an American defeat, and they hate George Bush too much.
But today, some are surprised to find themselves agreeing with George W. Bush that a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could lead to “mass killings on a horrific scale,” as the president put it in a news conference this month.
“In spite of the fact that this man is the worst president of my lifetime, occasionally he says something correct and I’m afraid this is correct,” said Peter Sluglett, an Iraq expert at the University of Utah. “While it is superficially attractive to say yes, let’s get out of there, since it was America’s responsibility for getting this mess into Iraq in the first place, it has some responsibility that the thing does not degenerate even further.”
Joost Hiltermann, author of “A Poisonous Affair,” a new book about the Iraqi gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, and a long-standing critic of U.S. policy in Iraq, said he “absolutely” agrees with Bush about withdrawing troops.
“A premature or precipitous withdrawal is very dangerous,” Hiltermann said. “American forces have been the glue to keep together Iraqi security forces. The security forces would totally fall apart, fracture along ethnic and sectarian lines.
“It can get much, much worse. Heavy weapons can be brought in. It’s not scare-mongering to say a precipitous U.S. troop withdrawal would lead to total mayhem that will exceed anything that we’ve seen so far.”
Not all the experts agree. Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan and perhaps the most outspoken liberal critic of Bush among Iraq specialists, said “the U.S. troop presence in some areas of the country is probably stirring people up and doing more harm than good. And the foreign military occupation may be prolonging and deepening the eventual conflict.”
But even Cole calls for more political progress before withdrawal, specifically holding local elections in the provinces that were supposed to take place in January 2006.
Amatzia Baram, an Israeli professor at the University of Haifa and one of the world’s leading experts on Iraq, said the Iraqi government would collapse if the United States withdraws before there is a political settlement in Baghdad allowing former followers of Saddam Hussein to return to government jobs and giving Sunnis their fair share of oil revenues.
“If there is a complete evacuation within a year, the government will not be able to stand on its own,” Baram said.
He said the Kurds probably would grab the oil-rich city of Kirkuk by force, which some think would lead to a Turkish invasion of Iraq; the Shia South could split in two, with the southernmost region grabbing 75 percent of Iraq’s oil for itself; fighting probably would break out between Shia factions throughout the South; and the Sunnis would be forced to continue their civil war and possibly -- as Bush predicted -- join forces again with al-Qaida to attack the Shia.
That would lead to the danger of a Shia massacre of Sunnis that would draw Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf states and Jordan into the civil war directly, Baram said.
“So I see the gradual Somaliazation of Iraq and the growing involvement of regional powers in the struggles,” he said, referring to Somalia, where there has been no real central government for most of the past 16 years.
Baram and other experts said the United States must focus on slowly replacing U.S. troops with Iraqi troops. He suggested the U.S. could “begin a year from now a slow reduction of American forces and the very gradual introduction of Iraqi forces. Over two to three years, American forces can go down to half of what they are now.”
Let me make an offer to those folks. Say that we should have never gone into Iraq if you want. Say that Bush lied if you want (although it’s not true). Hate Bush if you want.
But don’t do something that will result in the killing of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Militant Atheist Scientists Versus Newton
DID YOU hear about the religious fundamentalist who wanted to teach physics at Cambridge University? This would-be instructor wasn’t simply a Christian; he was so preoccupied with biblical prophecy that he wrote a book titled “Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.” Based on his reading of Daniel, in fact, he forecast the date of the Apocalypse: no earlier than 2060. He also calculated the year the world was created. When Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning,” he determined, it means 3988 BC.The hostility toward Christianity of many in the scientific community doesn’t follow from any principled committment to the scientific method.
Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor who espouses not merely “intelligent design” but out-and-out divine creation. This applicant’s writings on astronomy, for example, include these thoughts on the solar system: “This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and domination of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . He governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done.”
Hire somebody with such views to teach physics? At a Baptist junior college deep in the Bible Belt, maybe, but the faculty would erupt if you tried it just about anywhere else.
Many of them would echo Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, the prominent evolutionary biologist, who writes in The God Delusion that he is “hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. . . . It subverts science and saps the intellect.”
Equally blunt is Sam Harris, a PhD candidate in neuroscience and another unsparing foe of religion. “The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum,” he writes in an essay whose title -- “Science Must Destroy Religion” -- makes clear the antipathy with which many modern scientists regard religious faith. “The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.”
Less elegant but more influential, the National Science Education Standards issued by the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 classified religion with “myths,” “mystical inspiration,” and “superstition” -- all of them quite incompatible with scientific study. Michael Dini, a biologist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, made headlines in 2003 over his policy of denying letters of recommendation for any graduate student who could not “truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer” to the question of mankind’s origin. Science and religion, he said in an interview at the time, “shouldn’t overlap.”
But such considerations didn’t keep Cambridge from hiring the theology- and Bible-drenched individual described above. Indeed, it named him to the prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics -- in 1668. And a good thing too, since Isaac Newton -- notwithstanding his religious fervor and intense interest in Biblical interpretation -- went on to become the most renowned scientist of his age, and arguably the most influential in history.
Newton’s consuming interest in theology, eschatology, and the secrets of the Bible is the subject of a new exhibit at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (online at jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/mss/Newton). His vast religious output -- an estimated 3 million words -- ranged from the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple to a method of reckoning the date of Easter to the elucidation of Biblical symbols. “Newton was one of the last great Renaissance men,” the curators observe, “a thinker who worked in mathematics, physics, optics, alchemy, history, theology, and the interpretation of prophecy and saw connections between them all.” The 21st-century prejudice that religion invariably “subverts science” is refuted by the extraordinary figure who managed to discover the composition of light, deduce the laws of motion, invent calculus, compute the speed of sound, and define universal gravitation, all while believing deeply in the “domination of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Far from subverting his scientific integrity, the exhibition notes, “Newton’s piety served as one of his inspirations to study nature and what we today call science.”
For Newton, it was axiomatic that religious inquiry and scientific investigation complemented each other. There were truths to be found in both of the “books” authored by God, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature -- or as Francis Bacon called them, the “book of God’s word” and the “book of God’s works.” To study the world empirically did not mean abandoning religious faith. On the contrary: The more deeply the workings of Creation were understood, the closer one might come to the Creator. In the language of the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
To be sure, religious dogma can be a blindfold, blocking truths from those who refuse to see them. Scientific dogma can have the same effect. Neither faith nor reason can answer every question. As Newton knew, the surest path to understanding is the one that has room for both.
Rather, it comes from a set of cultural biases.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Shock: Civil Rights Law Protects Whites
The Act, remember, had opponents. Some were simply racists (or pandering to racists, which is worse). But some, like Barry Goldwater, had a principled fear about handing such powers over to the Federal government.
The opponents said that the Act might lead to racial quotas, or to “reverse discrimination.” The proponents of the Act made it clear that those things would be impossible. They insisted that any discrimination against whites would be outlawed just as any discrimination against blacks would be.
Of course, the proponents of “civil rights” quickly moved to discriminate against whites, and institute de facto quotas. But the Act (and other civil rights laws) remains what it is.
From the Journal-Sentinel:
The city would pay $2.65 million to 17 current and former Milwaukee police lieutenants who successfully argued they were passed over for promotion because they were white men, under a settlement backed Monday by a Common Council committee.We would strongly urge white males who think they have been victims of discrimination to go to court and sue. Make life dangerous for those who discriminate.
If the full council agrees July 31, each of the men would be paid $103,922 to end their federal discrimination lawsuit against former Police Chief Arthur Jones and the Fire and Police Commission. Their attorney, William Rettko, would be paid $833,333, nearly one-third of the total.
The lieutenants filed suit in 2003, accusing the city’s first permanent black police chief of discriminating against them by repeatedly promoting minority and female officers ahead of them. During Jones’ tenure, about 80% of Milwaukee police lieutenants were white men, but about half the 41 people he promoted to captain were minorities or women.
In their suit, the lieutenants sought $300,000 each, or $5.1 million, in addition to unspecified punitive damages.
A federal jury ruled in their favor in 2005, finding that between them, the officers were discriminated against a total of 144 times. The jury and U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Curran awarded $3.7 million in damages. Curran later awarded attorney’s fees that brought the total to about $4.6 million, Deputy City Attorney Rudolph Konrad said in a memo to the council’s Judiciary and Legislation Committee.
In January of this year, a federal appeals court upheld the verdict but sent the damages back to the district court in Milwaukee to be recalculated. Both sides agreed to mediation, which produced Monday’s deal, said Assistant City Attorney Miriam Horwitz.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Former Marquette Basketball Player: Rough Road, Good End
He told his audience about the mistakes he had made during his time at Marquette, and the years after he graduated. The way he had dabbled in drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. For the first time, he shared that he had attempted suicide in December 1998, leading to his departure from Marquette. He returned for one game in January 1999, but a panic attack during a game against DePaul ended his college career. He graduated in 1999, but since then he had drifted from job to job — substitute teacher, bartender, disc jockey, counselor for troubled juveniles.And what is his situation today?
Most of all, Lovette will share his belief that he wouldn’t be where his today without his faith. How his relationship with God has blessed him with many riches. A beautiful wife. A home in Winona Lake, Ind., home of Grace College, and a job as the men’s basketball team’s strength and conditioning coach. An opportunity to attend the school’s seminary and pursue his dream of being a missionary.Read the whole article. And consider how he can be an inspiration for other troubled young men.
It doesn’t matter if Lovette is speaking to people he knows, as he was that December day when he preached to members of the Grace men’s and women’s basketball teams in Atlanta, or complete strangers. He believes in what he says.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Interesting Bit of Marquette History
How did it come to be that Marquette High is 24 years older than Marquette University?The paper also ran a very favorable story about Marquette High School here.
The high school’s roots lie in 1857, when a school named St. Aloysius Academy, with students from age 6 to 25, opened near what is now N. 3rd St. and W. Michigan St., according to high school officials.
The name was changed to St. Gall’s Academy after it moved into a new building at the same site in 1864, and it took the name Marquette College when it opened in 1881 at 10th and State streets, serving students starting at age 14 and eligible to go straight through to a college degree at age 20. That is the start of what is now Marquette University.
In 1907, the school was divided into Marquette Academy, serving high school grades, and Marquette University. The academy officially took the name Marquette University High School in 1922. It moved to its current location at N. 34th St and W. Wisconsin Ave. in 1925 and became independent from Marquette University in 1950.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Gore Wedding Guests Feast on Endangered Species of Fish
ONLY one week after Live Earth, Al Gore’s green credentials slipped while hosting his daughter’s wedding in Beverly Hills.Of course, the sea bass served at the Gore wedding may have been caught perfectly legally. But that doesn’t change the fact that the more people eat, the greater the demand, and the greater the incentive to over-fish.
Gore and his guests at the weekend ceremony dined on Chilean sea bass - arguably one of the world’s most threatened fish species.
Also known as Patagonian toothfish, the species is under pressure from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the Southern Ocean, jeopardising the sustainability of remaining stocks.
The species is currently managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources, the body which introduced a catch and trade documentation scheme as an attempt to tackle illegal poaching of this species.
Working with non-government organisations, the Humane Society International’s focus is now on pursuit of illegal fishing operators who, in the rush to cash in on the highly valued species, plunder stocks with no regard for sustainability.
It has been estimated that more than 50 per cent of toothfish traded is illegally caught, and includes juveniles vital to the ongoing toothfish population.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Hard To Kill
Labels: Osama Bin Laden
Democrats, Scared of Fox, Will “Debate” on Gay Channel
The Democratic presidential candidates have agreed to another televised debate, this one focusing on issues related to homosexuality. The sponsors are the Human Rights Campaign, a gay activist lobby, and Logo, a gay-themed cable channel, which will broadcast the event live from Los Angeles on Aug. 9. Human Rights Campaign chairman Joe Solmonese will moderate, along with lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge.The reason, of course, is simple. The Democratic candidates might have to face some tough questions from Fox.
They can call it a “debate,” but it will undoubtedly be a pander-palooza, with each candidate trying to outdo the others in pledging fealty to the gay-left agenda. Well, why not -- if I were a Democratic candidate, I’d also grab the chance for some face time before a friendly audience. Indeed, if I were a Republican candidate, I’d take part -- why pass up the free publicity and a chance to be seen and heard?
These are the same Democrats, of course, who refuse to debate on the Fox News Channel because they object to its political agenda. So be it. But what does it say about their priorities that they gladly court Logo’s niche viewers, yet snub the far larger mainstream audience that watches Fox?
Still, in spite of the fact that the Fox audience skews conservative, it’s way more mainstream than the audience of a gay and lesbian channel.
Choosing a friendly venue is nothing new in politics, but it’s revealing that the Democrats “friendly venue” is such a marginal one.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Are Methodists Really This Far to the Left?
On the latter, from the Institute on Religion and Democracy:
The Spring directors meeting of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) authorized a flurry of left-wing political actions amidst reports of exciting international church partnerships and of GBGM’s continued financial decline.More moderate forces had a little success, however.
The April gathering in Stamford, Connecticut was peppered with political themes. One speaker promoted U.S. participation in the controversial International Criminal Court. With no discussion, Directors endorsed the liberal Children’s Defense Fund lobbying for expanded welfare programs.
David Maldonado of United Methodism’s Perkins seminary defended illegal immigration. He said “the decision is not to be a criminal” but rather “to do what in your heart of hearts you know is the right thing.” Maldonado, who is also president of the denomination’s Hispanic caucus, MARCHA, compared immigration laws to segregation. And he was dismissive of worries about illegal immigration.
Evangelical directors successfully stopped a proposal to remove the United Methodist Church’s support for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). Liberal United Methodist officials have previously opposed IDOP on the grounds that it was supported by the “religious right.”One has to suspect that, in a gethering like this, persecuted Christians are of far less concern than persecuted Muslims, persecuted homosexuals and persecuted women.
There was some review and discussion of a few new resolutions. But with no time for discussion in plenary session, the directors quickly approved dozens of older resolutions to, among other things:One has to wonder: was there any left-wing cause that was overlooked?
- Oppose school vouchers
- “Deplore any ecclesiastical attempts in seminaries” to use the academic community for the promotion of any particular point of view” or “to require ecclesiastical loyalty oaths designed to protect cherished truth claims”
- Portray America as a land of “increasing oppression” with “police and the intelligence community’s harassment of minority leaders,” “rising militancy of rank-and-file police,” and “heavy punitive actions against dissidents.”
- Blame Puerto Rico’s economic problems on the U.S. federal government
- Promote “amnesty for the undocumented [i.e., illegal] immigrants living within the United States.”
- Assert that violating U.S. immigration law “is not a crime”
- Claim that “all people” are entitled “to have a full an abundant life”
- Urge massive debt cancellation for Third World nations
- Instruct the GBGM to work with leftist activist groups as the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights
- Accuse the U.S.A. PATRIOT ACT of “particularly target[ing] … people of color”
- Instructs the denomination’s Washington lobby to “intensify its advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world”
- “[U]nequivocally” opposes military intervention by any entity other than the U.N. against a sovereign nation
- Support “early cessation of U.S. arms sales in Taiwan”
- Instruct the GBGM “to continue discussions with” the pacifist Christian Peacemaker Teams and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) “to explore the possibility of including United Methodists on the teams sent to areas of conflict.” The latter group is dedicated to interfering with Israeli anti-terror operations and claims that “the root cause of the conflict” in the region is solely Israel’s responsibility. Four years ago, one ISM leader was caught hiding a Palestinian terrorist in her office.
- Endorse U.N. Conventions regarding “The Rights of the Child” and “The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The former has been accused of promoting government intervention in parenting and the latter of promoting legalized abortion and prostitution.
- Call for legislation to outlaw anything that could be vaguely interpreted as “malicious and intimidating actions … related to” the victim’s “sexual orientation.”
- Criticize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- Urge “the U.S. government to end all military aid” to Israel
- Demand the end to sanctions against North Korea and Cuba.
When it came to handing out money, the same leftist agenda was seen.
At the end of the four-day meeting, directors were also rushed to quickly approve without discussion a 122-page “Mission Opportunities” book listing GBGM grants to outside groups. These grants included:Looking at this, one might get the idea that the Methodists are a left-wing denomination.
- $10,000 to the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which has demanded that other nations “impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state” and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to remain a Jewish state. The GBGM’s own description of the grant notes that it will support “remembrances” of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948.
- $5,000 to the Metro Alliance and Communities Organized for Public Services, two San Antonio affiliates of the Industrial Areas Foundation which describes its political perspective as “radical” and “progressive”
- $3,000 to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which has portrayed Israel as solely responsible for the region’s problems and includes members committed to Israel’s destruction.
- $3,000 to the Greensboro Justice Fund, which helps funds the Georgia chapter of the ACLU and a homosexual youth network. The GBGM description of this grant notes the recipient’s devotion to ending unspecified “homophobic discrimination” and “right wing attacks.”
- $5,000 to a “progressive” effort for “structural and systemic change in the criminal justice system.”
- $2,500 to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which has promoted the cause of radical icon and convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal
- $2,500 to the Sentencing Project, which opposes mandatory minimum sentences and advocates, reduced penalties for crack-cocaine offences.
- $10,000 to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which “believe[s] the freedom of expression should in no way include hurting the feelings and believes [sic] of any ethnic or religious group.”
- Unusually and commendably, $5,000 to a United-Kingdom Christian group “to support its campaign to seek the abolition of anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan,” which is “used to persecute and imprison many religious minorities.”
But suppose we look at the politics of rank-and-file Methodists, as reported in the General Social Survey of the University of Chicago.
- Democrats -- 39.6%
- Independents -- 14.7%
- Republicans -- 45.7%
- All Others
- Democrats -- 43.6%
- Independents -- 15.4%
- Republicans -- 41.1%
That’s right. Methodists are are bit more likely to be Republicans than the nation as a whole.
It’s all too typical in religious organizations that a cadre of clerics and bureaucrats run the organization. But the mystery is: why do rank and file Methodists put up with this sort of thing?
In large numbers, they don’t. The Methodist Church has been bleeding members for decades as people in the pews move to places that are apolitical, or conservative. The process is slow, however, as ties to other members and family traditions hold people in the denomination. But it moves on.
It’s not clear that the people running the denomination really care about this. Oh, they would like bigger budgets. But their loyalty is not to traditional Methodist doctrine, or even to biblical doctrine.
And, if they could meet and talk to John Wesley, they would probably consider him a religious fanatic.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Islamic Terrorism: Not the Result of Poverty
Like most politically correct fantasies, this turns out to be untrue. From Wall Street Journal columnist David Wessel.
When Princeton economist Alan Krueger saw reports that seven of eight people arrested in the unsuccessful car bombings in Britain were doctors, he wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t even surprised.Of course, this is a bit of a fudge by Stern.
“Each time we have one of these attacks and the backgrounds of the attackers are revealed, this should put to rest the myth that terrorists are attacking us because they are desperately poor,” he says. “But this misconception doesn’t die.”
Less than a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush said, “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.” A couple of months later, his wife, Laura, said, “Educated children are much more likely to embrace the values that defeat terror.” Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn has argued, “The war on terrorism will not be won until we have come to grips with the problem of poverty, and thus the sources of discontent.”
The analysis is plausible. It’s appealing because it bolsters the case for the worthy goals of fighting poverty and ignorance. But systematic study -- to the extent possible -- suggests it’s wrong.
“As a group, terrorists are better educated and from wealthier families than the typical person in the same age group in the societies from which they originate,” Mr. Krueger said at the London School of Economics last year in a lecture soon to be published as a book, “What Makes a Terrorist?”
“There is no evidence of a general tendency for impoverished or uneducated people to be more likely to support terrorism or join terrorist organizations than their higher-income, better-educated countrymen,” he said. The Sept. 11 attackers were relatively well-off men from a rich country, Saudi Arabia.
He began poking around this sordid subject a decade ago when he and a colleague found little connection between economic circumstances and the incidence of violent hate crimes in Germany. Among the statistical pieces of the puzzle a small band of academics have assembled since are these:
• Backgrounds of 148 Palestinian suicide bombers show they were less likely to come from families living in poverty and were more likely to have finished high school than the general population. Biographies of 129 Hezbollah shahids (martyrs) reveal they, too, are less likely to be from poor families than the Lebanese population from which they come. The same goes for available data about an Israeli terrorist organization, Gush Emunim, active in the 1980s.
• Terrorism doesn’t increase in the Middle East when economic conditions worsen; indeed, there seems no link. One study finds the number of terrorist incidents is actually higher in countries that spend more on social-welfare programs. Slicing and dicing data finds no discernible pattern that countries that are poorer or more illiterate produce more terrorists. Examining 781 terrorist events classified by the U.S. State Department as “significant” reveals terrorists tend to come from countries distinguished by political oppression, not poverty or inequality.
• Public-opinion polls from Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey find people with more education are more likely to say suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. Polls of Palestinians find no clear difference in support for terrorism as a means to achieve political ends between the most and least educated.
Data on which all this relies are hardly perfect: Terrorists don’t fill out elaborate questionnaires. Better-off, better-educated individuals could be motivated if not by their own circumstances, then by the conditions of their impoverished countrymen. Interviews of terrorists in Pakistan by Harvard terrorism scholar Jessica Stern reveal recruiters there found the poorest neighborhoods to be the most fertile ground, particularly among those who feel Muslims are humiliated by the West.
The claim that Muslims are humiliated by the West could be merely a rationalization for terrorism on the part of people with deep seated and irrational grudges.
The blame America crowd, of course, simply goes on to blame America for some other reason: the war in Iraq, Bush Administration policies in support of Israel, etc.
One thing they will never consider is that there are problems with Islam as a religion, and with the political institutions of Islamic countries. When they blame America, they feel morally superior to Americans. That’s a firmly entrenched habit with them.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Not Willing to Use the M-Word?
Is radical Islam connected to terrorism? A number of notable British voices spoke out on that subject after Britain’s recent terrorist near-misses -- the two unexploded car bombs packed with gas cylinders and nails in London’s West End and the fiery SUV rammed by would-be suicide bombers into the main terminal at Glasgow’s international airport.It’s interesting how politically correct non-Muslims are so sensitive about linking Islam with violence, while a moderate Muslim is willing to speak frankly.
Consider what four of those voices had to say:
One declared that the word “Muslim” must not be used in connection with terrorism, and insisted that even the phrase “war on terror” should be scrapped.
The second likewise cautioned against pointing a finger at Islam, contending that in London, “Muslims are . . . less likely to support the use of violence to achieve political ends than non-Muslims.”
The third, asked whether Muslim extremists might be responsible for the attempted atrocities in London and Glasgow, counseled: “Let’s avoid presumptions. . . . It can be the work of Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Buddhists.”
By contrast, the fourth noted the resemblance of the latest terror attempts to “other recent British Islamic extremist plots,” pinpointed “Islamic theology” as “the real engine of our violence,” and described British jihadists as “mindless killers” who have “declared war upon the whole world.”
The first three statements, disingenuous but models of political correctness, were made respectively by (1) Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, (2) London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and (3) Daud Abdullah, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Their comments came just days before the second anniversary of the deadly 7/7 London transit bombings, and less than a year since 24 British Muslims were arrested for plotting to blow up passenger jets over the Atlantic. Yet the three men spoke as if they had no inkling that Britain is a battleground in militant Islam’s global jihad -- as if only a boor or a bigot could imagine that Muslims might somehow be linked to the car bombs in London and Glasgow.
And that fourth statement? Those were the blunt words of Hassan Butt, a onetime spokesman for the radical Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun, who has renounced his former life. In an essay published last week in the Daily Mail, Butt emphasized that jihadists are motivated not by opposition to British or US foreign policy but by a fundamentalist theology that seeks to subject the entire world to “Islamic justice.” Radical Imams, he wrote, teach their followers that they must fight for Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) against Dar al-Harb (the House of War -- i.e., infidels to be defeated). And “in Dar el-Harb, anything goes, including the treachery and cowardice of attacking civilians.”
If the politicians are evasive, the Mainstream Media act the same way.
The obfuscation is sometimes almost comical. The New York Times, reporting the Glasgow attack on Page 1, carefully avoided using the M-word to identify Britain’s Muslim terrorists. Instead it attributed the 7/7 bombings to Britain’s “disenfranchised South Asian population” and reported that the terrorists in Glasgow “were South Asian.” (As Joel Mowbray pointed out for the Powerline blog, Indian Hindus are the United Kingdom’s largest South Asian demographic.)It’s reasonable enough not to want to stereotype, or encourage prejudice against, Muslims. But refusing to talk about real problems in the Islamic community can’t make things better.
Similarly, seven reporters contributed to AP’s story on the arrested jihad-doctors (“Diverse group allegedly in British plot”), yet somehow missed the radical theology they presumably shared. The closest the story comes is a think-tank expert’s speculation that the arrested doctors “discovered that they shared some common ideology, and then they decided to act.” Comments Robert Spencer archly at JihadWatch: “Gee, what a coincidence! I wonder what ideology they all held in common.”
Political correctness is no strategy for victory. Islamic fascists will not hate us less if we avoid all mention of the theology that inflames them. Winning the war the jihadists have declared -- the war of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb -- begins with moral clarity. Denial is a luxury we cannot afford.
Any more than refusing to talk about (say) crime in the black community in the U.S. is going to make anything better.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Minimum Wage Insanity in Illinois
From the Daily Herald:
Blagojevich appears oblivious to the consequences of mandating a higher minimum wage. Making Illinois firms uncompetitive is just the beginning.
Is minimum wage costing businesses state contracts?
Governor pushes for higher pay then outsources jobs to states with lower wages
BY JOHN PATTERSON
DAILY HERALD STATE GOVERNMENT EDITOR
SPRINGFIELD - Illinois’ minimum wage shoots up to $7.50 an hour today, a move heralded as helping working men and women by the Democrats who pushed it, but which ironically may have cost a suburban company two state contracts and eliminated dozens of downstate jobs.
Hoffman Estates-based Rely Services has a data-entry center in downstate Carlinville, which for years held state contracts to manually input tax and vehicle data.
But in bidding to keep those contracts, the company was undercut, in part, its officials say, because out-of-state firms can pay their employees a lower minimum wage. As a result, the center that at its peak employs 134 will see its workforce plummet to 14 on Monday.
“It’s been a pretty sad day,” production manager Brenda Witt told the Daily Herald last week as employees were finishing their final days at work.
The work those employees had done now will be handled by firms based in North Carolina, Michigan and Indiana, all of which have lower minimum wages than Illinois.
Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich led the push to raise Illinois’ wage, the second such increase since he first took office in 2003.
Today’s $1-an-hour increase is only the beginning. Three more 25 cents-per-hour increases are scheduled to take effect. In 2010 the minimum wage here will be $8.25, which translates into $17,160 a year.
“I’m proud that in Illinois, we’ve kept our promise to help working people and make their lives easier after years of neglect at the federal level. As Illinois’ minimum wage moves up to $7.50 an hour . . . it will be a little easier for thousands of Illinois families to pay their bills, put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids,” Blagojevich said in a news release.
Further job losses are guaranteed as managers substitute capital for labor -- buying more machinery (and more sophisticated machinery) so they can hire fewer workers. And as the price of goods and services go up, people will consume less of the things that are heavily dependent on entry-level wage labor.
When the increase was debated late last year, some Republicans and business groups complained that the move tips the economic landscape against Illinois and would drive businesses out. If the minimum wage was going to be increased, it should be done nationwide to ensure everyone played by the same rules, they argued.It seems they didn’t have the guts to flatly say any minimum wage anywhere is a bad idea. But we can hardly blame them. When your business is on the line, it’s hard not to compromise and say things that are politically palatable.
But, of course, raising the national minimum wage simply makes the U.S. less competitive in international markets. Poor countries have plenty of workers who are happy to work for far less that the U.S. minimum.
Earlier this year, a new, Democrat-controlled Congress did just that, sending President Bush the first minimum wage increase since 1997, which he signed.Note that she assumes that each and every worker will keep his or her job.
But the federal wage, which is the lowest level any state can have, will only increase to $5.85 this summer from the current $5.15. It’s scheduled to increase incrementally to $7.25 by 2009.
In contrast, Illinois’ new minimum wage is among the highest in the country.
“We’re definitely one of the more progressive states in this regard,” said Illinois Department of Labor spokeswoman Anjali Julka.
The governor’s office referred minimum wage calls to Julka. She said she was unfamiliar with the Rely Services situation but that the wage increase is estimated to benefit nearly 650,000 workers.
She said any impact on businesses should be minimal because minimum wage earners represent just a small percent of the workforce. Illinois has nearly 6 million workers, excluding farm jobs.This is utterly typical in public policy debates.
But in Carlinville - population 5,685 - the data processing center is among the largest employers.
Witt said the center was typically staffed with working moms and high school and college students attracted by the flexible hours.
Rely officials said they don’t necessarily object to a higher minimum wage, so long as Illinois businesses aren’t penalized in the process. But by focusing only on raising the minimum wage, Neil Khot, owner and company president, said Blagojevich is essentially giving Illinois work to other states.
“He’s saying, ‘I’ll increase my rate for my people to $7.50,’ whereas the other states are at $5.15,” Khot said. “Not protecting the borders is becoming a bigger issue.”
Khot and Witt said they’d like to see Illinois give preference to businesses with an Illinois presence. Currently, the state only gives preference to minority or female bidders and some small businesses.
Indiana, on the other hand, gives in-state businesses preference on state contracts and has set a goal of having 90 percent of all state business done in Indiana. Officials there project it’d keep more than $1 billion within the state economy.
In Illinois, however, the idea’s gained little traction. An Illinois Senate task force has been assigned to look at the issue, but its report isn’t due until the end of 2008.
“And how many businesses,” Witt said, “are going to be out of the state by then?”
One very bad, but popular, policy is implemented. It has negative effects. So another bad program is put into effect to mitigate the bad effects of the first bad program.
Affirmative action for in-state firms is guaranteed to cost taxpayers a pretty penny. Quite often the most efficient firm with the best product is out of state.
Further, the implicit subsidy given to in-state businesses is not targeted at poor workers. It goes to all workers -- including very well-paid managers -- and to owners. And it especially goes to firms who know how to “play the game” and seek political favor. It discriminates against firms who only know how to make a better produce cheaper.
The way to help low-income workers is the Earned Income Tax Credit. It subsidizes employment without distorting labor markets. If the market dictates that unskilled entry level workers can only demand $5.15 per hour in wages, that’s what people get paid. Then government chips in several thousand dollars per year for a full-time worker making this wage.
So why do Democrats want to increase the minimum wage?
It’s their dirty little secret. They want to regulate the economy for the purpose of regulating the economy. They want to shift economic decision making out of the market and into the hands of legislators and bureaucrats. They don’t, really deep down care what the consequences are.
Lately, liberal Democrats have been crowing about the fact that a majority of Republicans don’t believe in evolution. What a bunch of ignorant rubes, they say.
(Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the fact that about 40% of Democrats don’t believe in evolution.)
When the issue is economic regulation, it’s the Democrats who are ignorant rubes.
Finding an economist who is in favor of the minimum wage is about as hard as finding a biologist who doesn’t believe in evolution. They exist, but they are very rare and on the margins of the profession.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Democrats and Redistribution
Obama, Clinton Redistribute Campaign Cash to Poor Rivals
by Scott Ott
(2007-07-02) — Senators Barack Obama, D-IL, and Hillary Clinton, D-NY, today turned presidential campaigning on its head when they announced that the combined $52 million in primary campaign cash they raised in the second quarter would be redistributed to less fortunate candidates like Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
In a joint news release, Senators Obama and Clinton said, “The fundamental principles of the Democrat party say that the rich and powerful have an obligation to help the poor and downtrodden.”
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, not slated to benefit from the redistribution, denounced the move as a “crass political ploy which lacks the weight of traditional Democrat moral leadership, because it was voluntary.”
“If Hillary and Barry really believed in our Democrat principles,” Mr. Edwards said, “they wouldn’t voluntarily give their money to a few poor candidates…money which was voluntarily given to them. Instead, they would introduce legislation to mandate that all presidential candidates be given an equal amount of taxpayer dollars. This could be done without raising taxes on anyone but the filthy rich, and by shifting money from the Pentagon’s quagmire budget to this new program.”
Monday, July 02, 2007
The More Things Change . . .
Do Wisconsinites Really Want Socialized Medicine?
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Hidden costs of Canadian health care system
June 23, 2007
BY BRETT SKINNER
In a pivotal scene in “Sicko,” filmmaker Michael Moore marvels at Canada’s single-payer health system, suggesting that it is a medical utopia. “It’s really a fabulous system,” explains one healthy Canadian, “for making sure that the least of us and the best of us are taken care of.”
But healthy people don’t use much health care. If Moore had interviewed ill Canadians, he would have gotten a whole different story.
In reality, Canada’s health care system is not the paradise Moore presents.
I should know: I live there.
Consider Canada’s notorious waiting lists. In 1993, Canadians referred by their doctors to specialists waited an average of 9.3 weeks for treatment. By 2006, it was 17.8 weeks -- almost twice what’s considered clinically reasonable.
In the words of Canada’s Supreme Court, “Access to a waiting list is not the same thing as access to health care.” The court used that phrase when it struck down the single-payer system in one Canadian province in 2005. Yet somehow Moore missed this, the biggest story in Canadian health policy in the last 40 years.
Canada’s long waits are partially caused by a shortage of doctors. Whereas the United States had 2.4 practicing physicians per 1,000 residents in 2004, Canada had only 2.1. That’s a difference of 300 fewer doctors in a city of 1 million residents. New York’s population is more than 8 million. Imagine what health care would be like in the Big Apple with 2,400 fewer physicians and you have some idea what it’s like in Canada.
Over the last 10 years, about 10 percent of doctors trained in Canada decided to practice medicine in the United States. This is the result of low physician salaries, which are paid by the state. The average Canadian physician earns only 42 percent of what the average U.S. doctor takes home each year. Simply put, single-payer systems exploit medical labor. Any U.S. state that adopts a single-payer approach is going to lose doctors to other states.
Canada’s single-payer system is also letting its hospitals rot. While the average U.S. hospital is only nine years old, the average hospital in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, has been around for 40 years.
And Canada’s system limits the adoption of new technology. Among the 24 Western nations that guarantee access to health care, Canada ranks 13th in access to MRIs and 17th in access to CT scanners. The lack of access to medical technology contributes to longer waiting times for diagnostic tests.
The rationing of medical procedures and drugs is another harmful result of Canada’s system. In 2003, twice as many in-patient surgical procedures were performed in the United States per 1,000 residents compared to Canada.
And Canada’s “universal” healthcare system doesn’t offer universal drug coverage. Only about one-third of the population is eligible for government drug programs in Canada -- the rest pay cash or have private insurance.
Canada’s cost advantage is also an illusion. True, Canada spends less of its GDP on medical care than America -- but so does Ethiopia. Such comparisons are meaningless without considering value for money. And compared to Americans, Canadians get relatively little in return for the money they spend. Canada’s single-payer system does not cover many of the advanced medical treatments and technologies that are commonplace in America, and Canadians have access to fewer doctors, fewer treatments and fewer new drugs.
Yet in Canada, public spending on health care is still growing faster than the ability of the government to pay for it. As of 2006, public health spending in six out of 10 Canadian provinces was on pace to consume more than half of total revenue from all sources by the year 2020 -- without even taking into account the added pressures from an aging population. As of 2003, the growing unfunded liabilities for health care reached 46 percent of Canada’s total economic output.
These are the hidden costs of Canada’s health system, and they’re far worse than the monetary price of U.S. medical care. But Michael Moore is not interested in such facts. He makes fictional films.